MONTREAL – The problem with the host team, the Canadiens, who hold the first pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, is that things will go down to 11, with a particular French touch to the whole procedure.
Case in point: Shane Wright, the potential first pick when the draft begins Thursday night, was asked somewhat ironically on Wednesday morning if he had ever looked for an apartment in the city. (He does not have).
Wright, a center from Burlington, Ont., was the surefire No. 1 at the start of last season, with all the trappings that come with being in such a position. But after a season in which he repeatedly said, “I expect the best from myself” and in which Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky dominated the international scene, one really wonders what the Canadiens will do in front of their hometown fans. .
Wright is still considered the favorite to become No. 1. He plays the most valuable position, has the pedigree and, even after a disappointing season, still projects himself as a star. If Montreal takes Slafkovsky – who looks like a good choice for the Devils, who own the second pick and are already established with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier in the middle – the domino effect could be significant. If the Canadiens surprise everyone and go for center Logan Cooley from the University of Minnesota, things will go particularly badly.
“I think any time you have a player at the top, any time you have a player that’s been considered this No. 1 guy, there’s always going to be people trying to take him down,” Wright said, who received exceptional status at age 15. and cleared to enter juniors a year early to put him on track for Thursday night, said. “There will always be people who will try to nitpick your game. Try to find those little flaws in your game and create controversy or a little more suspense. I don’t really know what the purpose is.
It served as a good reminder: despite all the talk, there’s a reason conventional wisdom is what it is. And that scenario would place Slafkovsky in New Jersey.
“They have two good centers,” Slafkovsky said of the Devils. “So they’re not as big as me, so I think I can fit in there and create something for them.”
Still, there’s a strong possibility that the Devils, who have been at sea for most of the recent past, could take care of the second pick if given the right opportunity. With Hughes and Hischier seen as fundamental pieces – and with Jack’s brother Luke soon to join the blue line – the Devils may decide now is the time to avoid waiting, and Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat is emerging as a prime option on the trading bloc. The Devils have only made the playoffs once since appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, and any team forced to wait a decade between second-round appearances would understandably grow impatient.
“I think they have a really strong young team,” Wright said. “They have a lot of young talent, a lot of good elements in their team. It’s an organization that wants to win, that wants to be a competitor. If I’m lucky enough to be a part of it, I think I can definitely help make an impact on that.
Although the Devils have welcomed Wright and Slafkovsky for visits, the goal for both is, of course, to get to the top.
“Obviously,” Wright said, “you want to be No. 1. You want to be the guy who goes first. You want to be the guy picked first.
“At the end, I want to be the best,” Slafkovsky said. “When I retire, I want to be the best player in this draft.”
New York Post